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Resumes and cover letters

Your resume

It is very important for experienced workers to custom fit their resume to each job opening. Two decades or more of work experience is a lot to draw from. However, employers won’t sift through it to find the gems. Instead, analyze your skills and emphasize those related to the job you apply for. Minimize or even drop off minimally related experience.

More tips for older workers:

  • Write a “combination” resume to emphasize skills and accomplishments and downplay the length of your career.
    • Cluster your skills under three or four categories that are important to the open position. These may include leadership, teamwork, innovation, computer skills, communication skills, supervisory skills, and so on.
    • Then briefly list your employment history beneath that, citing 2-3 major accomplishments for each job. Include the past 10-15 years.
  • Computer skills are important in nearly all jobs. Be sure to list your computer software knowledge and technology-related skills.
  • Make sure the words in your resume reflect the current terminology of your field.
  • List where you went to college or job training and any degrees you’ve earned, but not the years you received them.
  • Leave out irrelevant jobs you’ve held, particularly those from more than 15 years ago.
  • Include your social media accounts in the contact information on your resume. (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) Potential employers and networking contacts are increasingly using these to identify and learn about job seekers, so be sure to manage your online image.
  • Most employers want your resume to be submitted electronically. Save your resume in several formats to readily attach in requested format. Common file types include plain text, PDF, and word processing software (Microsoft Word is used frequently.) When you send it, or before you hit the "submit" button for a job application, check the preview screen to review and correct errors. Visit CareerOneStop’s Resume Guide for more ideas.

Your cover letter

Cover letters should be between half a page and a full page long. Mention two or three accomplishments from your career and your strong interest in the position. If you were referred to the job, mention the person's name. Also highlight qualities that make you a strong candidate, such as:

  • Training and professional development courses and programs you have attended
  • Your ability and willingness to learn new skills
  • Your reliability and honesty
  • Your flexibility and adaptability
  • That you're a team player
  • Your solid attendance history

View more detailed cover letter recommendations.